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Jury says homeowner at fault in repo man dispute

Wed., Nov. 13, 2013, 1:54 p.m.

No monetary damages were awarded by 7-member panel

A federal jury ruled in favor today of a repo man who was confronted by a Liberty Lake homeowner, but no money was awarded in the case.

After four hours of deliberation, the seven-member panel returned a unanimous decision finding Franklin Duncan, the homeowner, assaulted and falsely imprisoned tow truck driver and repo man Victor Grant in the Feb. 10, 2010 incident. Duncan had sued both Grant and the the Liberty Lake Police Department after he suffered a broken ring finger and emotional distress from the confrontation, during which officers shot Duncan with a stun gun. Jurors cleared Liberty Lake police officers, including Chief Brian Asmus, from any wrongdoing in the incident.

Michael McFarland, attorney for Liberty Lake, praised jurors for making the correct decision based on the evidence presented.

“I believe that they should not have had to face trial, but should have been commended for taking very reasonable and necessary actions,” McFarland said of his clients.

Grant, the only party in the case present in the mostly empty courtroom of U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice on Wednesday afternoon, shared a congratulatory handshake with McFarland after the verdict was read. Despite the finding he’d been assaulted, jurors did not award Grant any damages.

“We’re just happy with the verdict,” Grant said as he left the courtroom.

Marcia Meade, the attorney for Duncan and his wife, Cynthia, thanked jurors for their patience during the trial, which began last Monday.

“Of course they don’t like it,” Meade said of the Duncans’ reaction to the verdict, which was delivered to them over the phone. “But they very strongly believe in the judicial process.”

Wednesday’s verdict ended more than a year of legal wrangling after the Duncans filed a tort claim with the city following the episode. The Duncans tried in testimony last week to show jurors the actions of Asmus and Sgt. Clint Gibson were excessive and caused emotional and physical pain that lingers, affecting Franklin Duncan’s work as a fishing lure patent-holder and sketch artist.

The confrontation between Duncan and Grant was prompted by Duncan’s son Nathaniel’s failure to make timely payments on his 1997 Audi A8 sedan. Nathaniel Duncan told police his payment was 40 days late when his father cut him a check for the delinquent amount. But when Nathaniel emerged from the family’s home in a gated community near Meadow Wood Golf Course, Grant was in the process of hooking the car to his tow truck.

Jurors Wednesday accepted Grant’s version of the following events, ruling that Franklin Duncan had snatched the keys from the truck and attempted to strangle the repo man before police arrived. Criminal charges against Duncan in the episode were dismissed shortly after the incident, according to court records.

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